Operation Underwear to benefit patients at Children’s Healthcare

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Monterey Thompson of McDonough says a challenging time in her family’s lives sparked her desire to help children in need.

“How many parents who jump into the back of an ambulance take time to pack?” she says. “Who goes to the [emergency room] expecting to be admitted? The meds given often mean many frequent changes of something we all take for granted.”

Monterey Thompson is spearheading Operation Underwear, collecting donations of items for patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. She was inspired by her daughter Meredith, who works at the hospital, to launch the endeavor. Photo by Seth Jackson

Thompson is spearheading Operation Underwear, to benefit patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Donations of new underwear are currently being accepted at Moye’s Pharmacy, the McDonough Welcome Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s location on Hudson Bridge Road in Stockbridge, and at Keller Williams Realty on Windward Parkway in Alpharetta. The deadline for donations is Feb. 12.

Thompson says the seeds for the drive were planted nearly six years ago.

“In May of 2010, my great-niece Ella was diagnosed with stage 3 Adrenal carcinoma, on the day before my daughter Meredith graduated from Union Grove High School,” says Thompson. “Having just lost my mother after a 16-year long-fight with cancer, this was especially traumatic because we knew this precious little 22-month-old child was taking the same drugs that had been so hard on my mom.”

Thompson explains that while her daughter was attending Georgia Tech during Ella’s treatments at Egleston, she decided to pursue a career in nursing.

“Fast forward five years to May of 2015,” says Thompson. “Ella is a cancer-free, thriving, healthy, happy seven-year-old and Meredith received her Bachelor of Science in Registered Nursing degree from Mercer and, in answer to her prayers, was offered a job at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.”

Thompson says during the recent holiday season, her daughter was looking forward to delivering gifts to children at the hospital.

“She went on to tell me how generous people were and that there were always many toys, books, DVDs etc., for the patients,” says Thompson. “She then added, ‘I wish people knew what we really need.’ I, of course, bit and said, ‘What do you need?’ Her answer floored me. ‘We need underwear.’”

Thompson says her daughter’s eye-opening revelation led her to write about the need in a post on Facebook, which generated a quick response of support.

“By the end of the week, I had over 100 pairs,” she says. “I then reached out to my friend Laura Turner at CHOA,” she says. “Every event I have ever been involved with in McDonough, they have been so generous to support and promote, and she jumped right on board.”

More than 33,000 kids from Henry County were treated at the hospital last year. As such, Turner says, parents and children alike can understand the need for such a donation drive.

Turner says she is thankful for Thompson and others who have participated in the effort thus far.

“My first reaction was to be proud of my community for wanting to help our patients,” says Turner, noting that CHOA has 575 beds spanning its three hospitals. “This time of year we stay pretty full. That means lots of patients of all ages coming through our doors. Some aren’t prepared for an extended stay, so that’s why we appreciate these types of donations.”

To date, Thompson has collected nearly 600 pairs through Operation Underwear. She says while her “first loyalty” is to Egleston because of its connection to her daughter, her dream is to fill the need at all three CHOA hospitals.

Egleston staff will be on hand when donations are presented to CHOA mascots Will and Hope on Feb. 13 at 11 a.m., at The Office Group on Griffin Street in McDonough.

“We need new underwear only, sizes 2T through adult -- remember some children wear adult sizes -- boys and girls,” adds Thompson. “It is my hope to make this an annual drive.”

For more information or to make a donation, call Monterey Thompson at 770-957-3383.